The purpose of the exercise was to spend time focusing on your drawing without worrying too much about the content.
Key words from the brief:
- Pick some reference material to draw
- Try and record all the information
- Draw it a second time but do it quicker
- Leave out the information that is less important
- Draw it again, this time from memory and with reference to your other drawings
- Draw it again, this time with no reference material at all
During Illustration 1 I did some work based on photographs I’d taken at Highgate Cemetery. I found the Victorian monuments evocative and visually interesting and a subject I wanted to return to.
I recently discovered Brookland Cemetery which is the largest cemetery in Western Europe with over 220 acres of parkland. The cemetery dates back to 1854 and has a number of famous graves. The scene I decided to draw is 50 meters from the grave of John Singer Sargent (1856 – 1925).
It’s a fantastic place to draw because it’s so quiet, peaceful and accessible by car. This meant I was able to take an easel out onto location (a first for me), which enabled me to draw at A2.
Another first was using charcoal and Conte Crayon for this type of subject. I’ve used the combination on numerous occasions for life drawing but never for landscape.
My idea was to spend 90-minutes completing an initial detail observational drawing and then progressively reduce the time spent and complexity of the drawing whilst trying different combinations of materials.
The first three drawings were all from life and completed in just over three hours. The remaining two drawings were completed in my studio in under an hour.
What went well
- I think the first and last drawings are most successful. The process from the first sustained observational drawing through to the final image created from memory was one of simplification and codification. The act of redrawing imprinted the image more firmly in visual memory so by the time I created the final image the key elements of the composition were easy to reproduce.
- The use of large Posca pens meant I could create simple shapes in bright colours which helped the process of simplification.
- The final drawing was made on grey card which I felt better suited the use of the Posca pens and gave me something to work against. It’s very rare for me to draw on coloured paper and this is something I must experiment with more.
- Some of the detail in the final drawing, particularly the plants and foliage in the foreground are very stylised; the shapes have been simplified and scale exaggerated and this starts to to play with the visual space. It would be interesting to push these visual changes even further.
What I would do differently/better
- It didn’t occur to me that using a dip pen and Indian Ink on a easel doesn’t work very well because the pen needs to be vertical to the drawing surface to work efficiently. Partly because of this and partly because for me working at A2 with a dip pen was not a great combination, I felt that the pen and ink drawing was the least successful of the images.
- Charcoal and Conte Crayon are not for accurately capturing fine detail; at least not working at A2 size. I found I had to be more inventive in thinking about the types of mark I was making in order to communicate the detail I was seeing. The lesson from this is to make sure to match the capabilities and characteristics of the media with the needs of the brief.